Profile Of An UnCollege Fellow: Ilkin Telli

August 26, 2016

UnCollege is a gap year program for young people looking to explore alternative routes to education and personal development. Here is a look at one of its fellows.

Education is constantly evolving. These days, the concept of a gap year is something more and more people are finding valuable, not only for their personal life, but for their professional life too. While going off on your own can be a bit intimidating, programs like UnCollege give you the guiding hand you need to re-launch your life. In 2013 UnCollege began providing gap years for students looking to travel, gain work experience, and develop their professional skills alongside a team of trained experts. In 2014 Ilkin Telli joined the UnCollege team and began her gap year. Her experience allowed her to embrace her inner free spirit and open herself up to exploring new places such as San Francisco, Costa Rica, and South Africa.

Ilkin Telli was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, though she spent her summers growing up in London. By the time she moved to the United States for high school, and later Trinity University, she was no stranger to the wonders of traveling. “The rush and the extremely low moments, balanced by the ecstatic moments, made me feel alive and would inspire me to keep doing more. I learned to value the simple comforts of being home, but soon, home became everywhere I found myself in.”

Although she made a splash on her high school and college swim teams, Ilkin realized while taking classes at Trinity that she was lost in what felt like another four-year high school cycle. “I found myself feeling fulfilled and confused. I was enjoying my classes but I was going through them as I would go through any high school classes. I realized college was just another high school experience which would soon be over, before I had any clue what I was doing, where I wanted to be or who I was. Once freshmen year was over, I returned home and overwhelmed with these thoughts, started searching for a way out.” Faced with this issue, Ilkin began looking at different gap year programs to help give her a new perspective on life. That’s when she found UnCollege.

At the beginning of her gap year, Ilkin was looking forward to change. “I knew somewhere inside I was the only person who could figure me and my future out…UnCollege was a chance for me to take the time off and reflect on myself, where I was coming from, and where I was going.” With the help of the UnCollege team and her own personal coach, Jon, Ilkin received a crash course in how to most effectively build and manage her own professional image during the program’s first phase, Launch, based in San Francisco. ”The Launch phase gave me a look into the professional life that I was very much a stranger to. Basic things, but only basic if someone tells you how to do them, such as resume building, how to write a cover letter, how to be more professional and self confident while working with others, how to be someone in the eyes of an employer.”

Ilkin combined the programs next two phases, Voyage and Internship, and did them simultaneously, working in hostels while traveling through Costa Rica and recapturing her love of travel. “It was as if crafting a life for myself in each town and becoming a part of it for a while working, volunteering in various settings…What people often confuse about traveling is to think that it is an experience you start and end, however traveling continues wherever you are, I’d argue that it is more a mindset. Her choice to combine the two phases was inspired by her desire to grow and develop herself as an adaptive individual. “The hostel work experiences added to my experience to learn how to adapt quickly to any new environment and find my place in each community and culture. I chose to work while traveling with the knowledge that the internship experience I needed had to be done on the road, and would require me to find a balance between work and travel.” Her time abroad helped Ilkin strike that balance and continue to grow.

At the end of her gap year, Ilkin returned to Trinity, but decided to continue her travels by studying abroad through the university in South Africa. “I was looking for a way to create a college experience that would be the best fit for my wandering spirit and studying in a completely new country and culture satisfied this search…It is safe to say South Africa continues to inspire me to focus on my personal goals as well as offering me a good system and perspective to finish my Psychology degree in.” Today she is doing work with an art gallery and focusing on finishing up her classes. In the near future, she hopes to resume her travels and pursue her interest in writing. She recommends UnCollege’s Gap Year Program to anyone interested enough to listen. “UnCollege offers a very interactive year; it is designed for and by the individual. It doesn’t tell you what to do, rather it gives you the help and resources you need to just do it, trust yourself and find more of yourself in the process.”

To learn more about the UnCollege experience, click here to read about the program.

About The Author

Chris Kelly
Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly is an education enthusiast who works with UnCollege in San Francisco. He is also a freelance writer in travel, sports, and the art of the spoken word.


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